Goodbye, So Long, Auf Wiedersehen
December 24 is my anniversary. It was five years ago on this day that I sat at the anchor desk at WREG and said goodbye. Not many people watch TV on Christmas Eve which meant that not many people saw my farewell. Some of the managers were okay with that. Some I had worked with for years didn’t even bother saying goodby to me or goodluck or don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I still have people asking me where I went.
It was four years ago this week that I started my blog, inspired by my good friend/former WREGer Jamey Tucker and by Peggy Philip, then news director at WMC. I remember my wife asked me why I started blogging in the first place. She asked me “Are you going to make any money doing this?” I told her “No, I just enjoy writing”. Now she’s wondering why I’m pulling the plug. (She tells me she caught up on what was going on in the media through my blog. She could have just asked!) When I first started blogging, I still had a pretty good idea of who worked where. I even managed to break a few stories of what was going on locally. I’ve also managed to raise the ire of managers at the local stations with my various posts. Some emailed me, others called me. Some talked to me on the record, others strictly off the record. I’ve had some write me nasty emails but not sign their real names. (Note to those I irritated AND have worked with: People tend to write the way they speak and that is usually a dead give-away on who they are). That, plus looking up the IP address narrowed it down.
When I first started blogging, I was posting three times a week and sometimes twice a day. Then it settled down to about twice a week. Over the last year it petered out to about once a week and then really fell off. My last post prior to this one was more than a month ago. Quite frankly, it became work and it was work that took a lot of time and paid me nothing monetarily. I quite honestly had gotten to the point where I really wasn’t watching the local news and it’s hard to make observations about the wackiness of the local broadcasts if you don’t watch.
I will admit that that blogging has helped me reconnect with folks I haven’t heard from in years. When I broke a story and it was picked up by NewsBlues, I heard from former co-workers from around the country. It was great fun. I even caught up with a former Memphian now working in Brazil. Thanks Chris for making this an international read! I also made a lot of c0ntacts and found that I could always count on some folks to chime in on particulars. “The GM” usually stepped up to the plate to answer TV’s business related questions and then there were the regulars who would jump into the fray. Except for a few folks whose toes I stepped on, most folks who responded kept it civil and I really appreciated that. There were only a few “haters” out there who insisted on being ugly to the point that I just automatically blocked their comments. Oh, they’d change their user names but it was always the same old, same old. As I’ve said on many occasions, if you don’t like what I’m posting, don’t keep coming back. It’s like watching a local TV station; if you don’t like what you’re watching, change the channel. It’s one of the things that makes this country great. We have choices.
I will admit I have been overwhelmed at times hearing from you. I had not been posting for very long when my father died of cancer after a 9-month battle. I posted on his death and called it “A Great Man Died Today”. The comments and emails I received moved me to tears and I have re-read some of those comments over the years and I’m still moved. I had a friend of mine come to my defense when I was accused of being a racist by someone who apparently uses that accusation every time there is a disagreement with someone. Actually, I’ve come to expect to hear someone use that accusation against someone else in the 20 years I’ve lived in Memphis. It was the first time I had been accused of it. A good friend who happens to be black/African American posted that he was disappointed that all the times he had been in my company and all the times he had been at my house for dinner or whatever that I had never been racist to him and he was rather disappointed. Also, it might surprise one of my daughters in law (she is a woman of color) that I’m a racist. I think she and my son would disagree.
One of the reasons I posted on this blog was to stay connected (to some degree) with the newsroom mentality that I grew addicted to over the course of 25 years of being in the business. People ask me to this day if I miss being in the local news business and I tell them I miss some aspects and don’t miss others. When I’m asked about the glamor side, I usually respond with “what part of getting up at 2:30 or 3 o’clock in the morning is glamorous? What part of working just about every major holiday sounds like fun?” I tell people that the only difference between being on-air and any other job is that when you are on-air and you make a mistake, everyone sees it. And that’s why I never really understood these “on-air” folks who smiled the big smile on TV and then treated people off-air like crap. I used to joke that to be successful on TV all you had to do was “learn to fake sincerity”. That was always meant as a joke but some people tend to take it seriously. Still, there is a side of the TV news business that I do miss. There is a feeling in a newsroom and among newspeople overall that is really hard to explain. It takes someone who has been in the news business to understand and appreciate it. To some degree there is a “gallows” humor with a hint of cynicism and for lack of a better word “crustiness” that winds it way through the newsrooms I’ve worked in. Maybe it’s how the crews deal with the daily dose of deaths, murder, mayhem, corruption and the constant weathergasms that seem to prevail in the course of a normal news day. I DO miss that. I’ve been offered the chance to get back in the business a couple of times and I’ve passed up on the opportunities because I really have enjoyed a normal life. Occasionally I feel the tug and consider going back into the business but so far, I’ve enjoyed NOT having to beg to be off on a holiday or during a ratings period.
I started thinking about the news business again this past week when my best friend told me that after several years of being away from the broadcast side of TV and doing a great job in the TV business related sales, that he was going back to a weather gig over toward the West Coast. I started thinking about the fun times and the good times of being back on the tube and I know my friend will do well. He’s the most natural born salesman I’ve ever met in my life and if anyone can sell weather to an audience, he can do it. But for me, at this point, I’m not quite ready to go there. Still, I learned a long time ago to never say “never”. Who knows, one day I might be back in the business. But for right now, I’m still plugging away with Lead Dog Video, my video production company, where the boss can be a jerk and the employee an a**hole. Yes, I’m both.
So, for now, I plan to devote even more time to getting my business growing and that means less time blogging. One day and perhaps sooner than I think, I may approach a manager with my hat in hand to ask for a job so I can get back in the biz. But that isn’t right now.
I want to say thank you all for taking time to read over the past four years and for taking time to write. If I made any of you stop and think, or laugh, or get angry or just helped you pass the time of day when stuck at a computer at work or at home, then it was worth it to me.
So goodbye, so long, and auf wiedersehen.